Jun 102011

While I haven’t gotten around to posting the fishing mayham that was last weekend’s outing with my mom, I will tell you we caught a lot of fish.  I’ll also tell you there was a downside to our method…  GRUBS.

Butterworms - grubs

Butter Worms - Straight From Hell

Last weekend I experienced “Butter Worms” for the first time and these things are nasty!  If you could imagine a wax worm that was pink and looked like a wiggling naked fat guy you’d have an accurate description of what these foul grubs are like.

While I won’t be standing in line to use these disgusting Butterworm creatures ever again, they did give me a great idea –  What if I could take the form of these nasty rancid grubs and translate it into a fly pattern.  Instead of having to touch one of these evil wiggling bags of puss every time a Bluegill bites I could build a strong durable fly that would last for many fish.

My experiment involved three distinct types of grub.  Butter Worms pictured above, Wax Worms, and Japanese Beetle larva/grubs.


Wax Worms

Japese beetle grub

Japanese beetle grub

I was especially interested in mimicking the Japanese Beetle grub since this variety is fairly popular in the area and digging a small patch of grass usually reveals one or two.

The Flies:

Bunch of grub flies in a box

Just us Grubs here!

Japanese Beetle Grub:

For the Japanese Beetle Grub fly pattern I tried two variations.

Variation one:

  • Size 10 Wet fly hook
  • Orange, tan, pale yellow, pale morn. dun dubbing
  • Black thread (White would have been better but this is what I had on hand)
  • Gold wire

I tied in the gold wire ribbing at the bend of the hook and then made a thick layer of a mix of the dubbing colors for the body.  I wrapped the wire up around the dubbing to create segments for the grubs body.  I tied the wire down at the eye of the hook and used some orange dubbing to dub in a puff of orange for the head of the grub.

Japanese beetle grub fly pattern 1

Japanese beetle grub fly pattern 1

This one is kind of a hairy mess.  Pretty sure the fish won’t mind.

Variation two:

  • Size 10 Wet fly hook
  • Tan, pale yellow, pale morn. dun dubbing
  • Black thread (White would have been better but this is what I had on hand)
  • Two orange seed beads
  • Clear tubing

This one I started by putting two orange seed beads on the head.  The beads I had on hand were pretty small so I doubled up.  I would suggest finding bigger orange beads so you can use one and get a better look.  After adding the beads I tied in the stretch tubing at the bend of the hook.  I then dubbed a nice fat body and layered the tubing over top of the dubbing.  I tried to cover the dubbing as best as possible but some slipped through and I cut it off afterwards.  I then tied off the fly behind the orange beads.  At this point I wasn’t really digging the fuzzy look so I layered on a few thick coats of clear nail polish.  Yes folks poor man’s epoxy.  Like I said these are experimental and I’m by NO means anywhere near a professional fly tier.

Japanese Beetle Larve grub fly pattern

Japanese Beetle grub fly 2

Butter Worms:

These are the grubs that got the wheels turning in my head.  In the picture at the start of this post you can see that they have multiple colors in their body.


  • Size 10 Wet fly hook
  • fl. chart, rusty brown/red, Sulphur orange, pale yellow dubbing
  • Black thread (Another color would have been better but this is what I had on hand)

This fly is almost a copy of the first Japanese beetle grub fly pattern.  For the Butter worm pattern I first mixed up a bunch of bright colors of dubbing.  When mixed together they still retain some of their original color and give a speckled appearance.  I dubbed a fat body onto the hook and this time I tried to wrap it a little tight to avoid some of the poof I experienced in the Japanese Beetle fly.  I placed a few wraps over the dubbing to break up the body a bit.  I then gave the grub a big black head with the thread.  I finished off the thread with some clear nail polish to give it a shiny grub head look.  I like the head I made on this one but next time I’m going to try to segment the body a bit better.

Butter worm fly pattern

Butter Worm Grub Fly

Wax Worms:

These grubs are very popular for live bait fishing.  In these three pattern variations I also tried to capture the look of meal worms which look pretty much the same but have a harder darker body.

Variation one:

  • Size 10 Wet fly hook
  • pale yellow and tan dubbing
  • Black thread (Another color would have been better but this is what I had on hand)
  • Brown rubber bugskin strips

The first Waxworm fly pattern I tried to make ended up being a disaster but I ran with it and the final result has a few merritts.  I started out by tying the rubber bugskin in at the bend of the hook.  I then dubbed a body leaving some room at the eye of the hook for a head.  Once the dubbed body was formed I attempted to wrap the bugskin around the body to form segments.  I then wrapped a head near the eye of the hook with my thread and finished the fly.  At this point the bugskin tore and exploded off of the fly.  Frustrated I slapped on some clear nail polish and called it Waxworm pattern experiment one.

Wax worm grub fly pattern 1

Wax Worm 1

Variation two:

This fly pattern uses the same materials as above.  The only difference with this one is that I placed two coats of clear nail polish on the bugskin before I tied the head.  Even with this “glue” some of the bugskin tried to tear away again.  I slopped some nail polish on it and held it down and it seemed to dry perfectly.  I think this was my favorite tie of the night.  Next time I may make the head smaller.

Wax worm mealie worm fly pattern 2

Wax/mealie worm fly

Variation three:

For this Waxworm fly pattern I used the same materials as the above two flies but this time I secured the bugskin with an additional layer of clear stretch tubing.  Like I said, we are experimenting with grub fly patterns here.  This one also got a coat of clear nail polish to make it a little tougher.  If I tie this one again I’m going to try to add a little more thickness to the body.

wax worm fly patterns 3

Waxworm Pattern 3

So there you have it.  Six experimental grub fly patterns.  Waxworms, Butterworms and Japanese Beetle grubs.  Tying grubs isn’t that hard, easily accomplished by a beginning fly tier.

Collection of six grub fly patterns

Six different Grub flies

While I won’t give away any future posts, I will tell you that I tested these patterns tonight and they catch fish.


So what do you think?  Have you ever tried tying grub flies?  Do you have a better pattern?  Let us know in the comments below!



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  • Those are frighteningly close to the real thing. Great job with them. Good luck with them on the water. I look forward to hearing how you do with them.

    • The Functioning Fishaholics

      Been one heck of a long day/week at my 8 to 5 job. Felt good to hear some kind words. Might have to field test these more tonight!

  • guest

    i use the killer bug in a couple of different versions. very close to what you’re doing here.

    nice tying.

  • Josh

    Nice job, I find the simplest flies to be the most success. I tie mine just using thread on hook in different colors.

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